Is everything going according to plan

There may still be time to add to your sales this year

NOW is the time to put together your plan for next year’s sales

I meet many businesses that, if doing well, make no plans to ‘feed the pipeline’, to seek and win new business on a regular basis.  At some stage, the feast will stop and famine will take over.  At that stage it may be too late to ask these questions;

  • Where will my sales come from?

have you targeted specific markets and customers?
have you followed up all previous opportunities?

  • How will I make contact?

and be sure you’re given the chance to quote
 – are you talking to the decision maker?

  • Am I sufficiently skilled in pitching, negotiating and closing?

enough to win the business?
 –  enough to ensure the best deal?

Did you have a sales plan for this year?  If you did make a plan; you have now reached the fourth quarter of the year.  Are you on plan?

DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU’RE GOING?

You did make a plan? Good move; not enough businesses do.  Too many rely on the ‘Field of Dreams’ principle of ‘If you build it they will come’.  Unfortunately, business is never as simple as that.  Building a business ready to supply the market is one thing, but;

–        making it attractive to those who may buy from you
–        developing an interest from those who could use your products and services
–        showing how well you can fulfil their need
–        securing the business by gaining their commitment, and
–        delivering and exceeding their expectations

…are all skills that can be learned, developed and embedded into your selling process.

Selling need not be difficult, stressful or something to avoid!  Selling can be ethical, simple, even fun!  Being better at selling means winning more sales.  But, you do need some useful skills and techniques to help ensure this happens.

So Plan – Action – Review.  Review means measuring your progress against plan and making any changes needed to remain on, or exceed your plan.  You cannot measure everything, but knowing where you are against your sales plan will help you to ensure positive progress and achievement.

So, you have a plan for next year?  How about aligning it with you 5 year and 10 year plans?!  Don’t rely on the short term view; turn that wish list into reality by making longer term plans for it to happen.  Make sure you know where you’re going!

Salient Sales & Training  –  taking the pressure out of selling

(If you are not happy with your answers to any of the above questions, why not book on our next seminar?  Details are on the website, under ‘Events’.

Let’s get a bit closer…

Communication and Buy-IN; are your customers and prospects fully engaged or merely notified?

I was training a group of 10 delegates a couple of weeks ago.  They were a great bunch, very professional and clearly dedicated to the company. However, like many, they felt that contacts; customers or prospects; were not fully engaged with them.  Their contacts would not respond promptly; weeks would go by with no response to a question, query or quote.  Apparently, some quotes of considerable value were still outstanding and they had assumed that they had not been successful.  Three things immediately sprang to mind:

FOLLOW-UP, ASSUMPTIONS and COMMUNICATION!

Any question, query or quote goes cold very quickly unless reinforced with a follow-up.  They may be short of a single fact or simple clarification.  ‘For a ha’porth of tar, the ship sank’ as they used to say….apparently.

This team had worked hard to offer what they felt the customer needed, but had stopped short of the follow-up.  Looking keen and following up within a small number of days will only give good impressions and emphasise that yours is the company to engage in business.

This level of attention has three key benefits:

  • It shows you’re keen
  • It keeps you up to date with customer intentions
  • It speeds up the sales process

Without effective follow-up, others will step in to take the business.  The ‘personal touch’ will be lost and engagement will transfer to others who express more interest in working with them.

Rule 1 – follow-up, if you don’t, others will.

In each case assumptions have been made.  It could be you are assuming you have little chance or the e business is not due to be placed yet.  Maybe they have assumed that your lack of follow-up means you are less interested in the business.  There are many other common assumptions and whichever side is making them, they are very dangerous and likely to damage your prospects of winning any business.

Rule 2 – never make assumptions; ASK!  Summarise, clarify and confirm every time.

How you generally communicate can make a huge difference to the progress and success of the business you are chasing.  I asked the team of delegates what forms of communication achieved the highest emotional connection or engagement, the most ‘buy-in’ from the customer.  We produced this list in descending order.  I then asked how they would usually communicate and in what proportion.  The results speak for themselves:

Engagement %                  % usage of communication methods

Face to Face                        90                                          5

Skype                                   50                                          5

Phone call                            30                                           5

Letter                                    10                                           5

Email                                     5                                            90

The company relied almost wholly on email, but admitted this was the least effective when wanting to engage with customers or prospects.  Despite the hard work and best of intentions, they had notified instead of engaged.

Rule 3 – if you claim to be a friendly and personable company to work with, don’t rely heavily on email for your communication.  If in doubt, ask them, see them, call them, write to them; why not use two methods, write then call, or visit then write etc?

If your customers matter; and of course they do; work more closely with them to understand their need, to fulfill their need and to win the business.  I am sure this team will now move forward by following up every contact and proposal as they certainly deserve the greater success it will bring.

Is your 1st Impression….2nd best?

It could be YOU!

  •   They might not like the look of you!
  •   Perhaps your opening line closed the conversation
  •   Your enthusiasm has overwhelmed them
  •   Your lack of enthusiasm has disappointed them
  •   Your garlic/coffee/curry breath has caused their spectacles to melt!

All these factors can have a negative result when attempting to sell.  Have you noticed a common theme?  They have little or nothing to do with your product or your sales skills.

In fact, many business opportunities are lost even before any attempt has been made to sell.  This is simply because the seller hasn’t considered their own personal presentation.  Such issues can also play a part in business conducted over the telephone or over the internet.  Here the issue is ‘it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it’.  We all know this to be true, but how often do we stop to think how this can apply to us and our business approach?  First impressions are more about how we look, how we act, what we say and what we do.

Emotion has a huge effect on how we regard the people we meet.  The emotion generated can have a positive or negative effect on any business being sought.  Before we have even opened our mouths, the new prospect can have made a subconscious decision not to do business with us!  Are we guilty of self-sabotage without realising it?

It is true; we do business with people we like.  Often, we decide whether we like them or not within just a few seconds of meeting them.  Yes, first impressions are very important.

Next time you want to approach someone whom you think may be a prospective customer, take a moment to consider:

  • Do I look the part?
  • Would a mouth spray help?!
  • Am I prepared to listen before I attempt to sell?
  • Do I have an interesting opening line and elevator pitch?
  • Will my enthusiasm for my business be seen as being keen or aggressive?
  • How can I help them?

……and only then, how can they help me?

Give yourself a chance! Once these questions are answered positively, you stand a good chance of winning their hearts and their business.

HOW MANY SALES PEOPLE DOES IT TAKE TO SCREW IN A LIGHT BULB?

To me there are three possible answers to this.

(The ‘not quite hilarious’ answer is number 3.)

At the end I will challenge you to find a fourth!

3 possible answers:

1/  When I was part of the ‘corporate world’; field-selling and directing sales for larger companies; the glib answer to this was ‘None’, that’s the Marketer’s job’.  This old chestnut was coined by territorial salesmen who neither understood nor respected the valuable work done by the marketers (or ‘marketeers’ as some like to call themselves).  The reply was at best, mildly amusing, but, to me, it simply emphasized the big divide between the sales and marketing departments.

For whatever size of business, sales and marketing need to work together. Good marketing raises your profile and attracts new customers but does not ‘win’ the business.  Sales skills are needed when the new prospects contact your business.  Good marketing can result in a much faster and easier sale as you avoid having to find and make contact with new prospects.  But remember; the sale will not just happen; you will still need to pitch, negotiate and close, and then manage the new client.

2/  The real answer to ‘how many sales people…?’  If the marketing has been done effectively, then the customer will have realised;

  • the value of a light bulb (it’s gone dark), thus identifying the need, and….
  • a good idea of how the product (the light bulb) is applied (screwed-in).

A helpful sales person may then show the customer how to achieve more light by buying and inserting the new bulb, thus, fulfilling the need.  However, at the end of the day, it is the customer’s responsibility to actually screw-in the bulb.  So, again, the answer is ‘none’!

3/  The answer is 2;  one holds the light bulb still, while the sales manager makes the world revolve around him (as he likes to think it does)….

HERE’S THE CHALLENGE: let me know your suggestions for answers to the question:

HOW MANY SALES PEOPLE DOES IT TAKE TO CHANGE A LIGHT BULB?!!

Answers may be humorous, ironic, or simply thought-provoking.  The best entry will win a half-day of one-to-one sales & marketing coaching, aimed at lighting the way ahead for your business and helping you to grow your sales.  (This can be in person at the Salient office in Royal Wootton Bassett, or by Skype and email.)

The winner will be decided on May 31st 2015.

ISSM Certificate in Sales & Marketing: find out more

Wanting to sell more?  What’s stopping you?

Do you need to be better at selling?     Institute of Sales and Marketing Management courses provide sales skills and techniques designed to help you sell more, and sell more easily.

Are you good at selling but can’t prove it?   Institute of Sales & Marketing Managers courses will give you that credibility by offering awards, certificates or diplomas in Sales & Marketing.

Salient has teamed up with Green Labyrinth to be able to provide ISMM certificates in Sales & Marketing.  The first course starts on April 20th from 6.00 to 9.00pm and completes on May 15th.shutterstock_143058028 bobble-heads

ISMM courses help you sell more by focussing on the three core aspects of knowledge, skills and attitude

  • Introducing a simple process and a variety of adaptable techniques
  • Providing proven skills and techniques for finding and winning sales
  • Helping you to develop effective sales plans and strategies that enable growth
  • Providing the means to implement and complete plans and gain the rewards
  • Focusing on developing productive relationships and ethical approaches
  • Showing how you can easily overcome barriers and objections and win respect
  • Developing the necessary self-belief and self confidence that allows you to enjoy success in selling

Who would benefit?

  1. Those new to sales
  2. Those needing a ‘refresher’ to maintain, develop and add to existing skills
  3. Sales people needing ‘proof-of-proficiency’ in selling

–          Learning how to sell successfully by relying on field experience can take time and can develop unproductive habits.

–          Learning how to sell using ISMM courses will bring success more quickly, easily, and more frequently.

Courses are flexible; discounts and public funding may be available for eligible delegates.  They are run at Bowman House in Royal Wootton Bassett.

For more details and to book onto the next course starting 20th April, contact: Sarah from Green Labyrinth on 01793 843128 (other dates are available), or email info@greenlabyrinth.co.uk

Alternatively, call Andy at Salient on 01793 843118

CLASSIC SALES CLANGERS

It is all too easy to fall into these traps when selling.  Some of you may well have experienced these already; they will be painfully obvious and clear to you.  However, sometimes you may also be unaware that you have slipped up or missed some opportunities. There are many I could have selected!  Here are five of the most common clangers:

Classic clanger no.1:  can happen at that first contact.  Maybe you have contacted who you think is an ideal prospect, but they turn out to be uninterested or have no need for what you are offering.  This is down to sales & marketing preparation: did you find out enough about them before contacting?  Are you talking to the right person?

Remedy:  If you haven’t already, plan your approach and START asking them questions!

Classic clanger no.2  Perhaps they stop you in mid pitch, to point out that your offer doesn’t match their need.  Did you ask enough questions?  Are you too eager to talk about your product and haven’t taken the time to qualify their need by asking simple questions?

Remedy:  Start asking now!

Classic clanger no.3  Did you make your pitch and then give them time to consider?  If you went back to them over a week later you may find they have gone elsewhere for the product.  Unfortunately, customer memory is very short and someone else can end up benefitting from the sale.

Remedy:  Agree with them the best time for the follow-up.  If you are unsure, call in a couple of days; not necessarily to ask for the business, but to check they are still happy with the offer or if they need more help to decide.

Classic clanger no. 4  You are being pushed on price but you have no more room to manoeuvre.  You’re stuck!  You don’t  have to ‘take a hit or walk away’.

Remedy:  Have a contingency; an extra something you can throw into the mix to move the situation forward.  This could be more product, or a related product, or an extra service; ideally, anything that costs you little, but will be seen as good value by the customer.

Classic clanger no.5  ‘Let me know if and when you are ready to order from us’.  THIS IS NOT A LEGITIMATE CLOSE!  If you leave the deal like this, the most likely outcomes are: they will forget all the good things about doing business with you; they will be persuaded to buy from someone else; they will delay their decision or even the project.

Remedy:  Don’t be afraid to close!  If it’s the wrong time, ask them when. Better still; ask them what more you need to do to win the business, then do it!

These are just some of the classic clangers that are easy to make when selling, and suggestions for how to prevent or remedy them.  As with everything, just a few simple techniques and selling skills can make all the difference when it comes to increasing your success and improving your business ‘conversion rate’.

If you’ve dropped a clanger, or are wondering why you don’t win as much business as you deserve, call Andy at Salient.